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Stakeholders call for urgent local resources to fight HIV

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Speakers at the ongoing 13th International Conference on HIV Treatment, Pathogenesis, and Prevention Research in Resource-Limited Settings (INTEREST) have called on Ghana to urgently source for local funds to support her HIV activities.

They said since donor funds keeps dwindling, and continue to affect the implementation of HIV programmes in the country, the time has come for Ghana to concentrate on mobilising local funds to enable her to accelerate efforts in combating HIV.

The lack of adequate funding had been said to keep Ghana in “a standstill position” as she struggled for funds to fight HIV.

This is eroding some of the progress made, over the years, with  fears that with the current trend, Ghana might not be able to reach HIV Epidemic Control by 2030.

Estimates and projections show an increasing number of Persons Living with HIV, and a national HIV population of greater than 330,000 as prevalence keeps rising slowly.

New infections and deaths were reducing very slowing below 20,000 and 15,000 respectively, while more females (65 per cent) were being infected and living with HIV, but more males (51 per cent) were said to be dying due to AIDS than females.

The 2018 UNAIDS Report revealed that Ghana had an estimated 3,400 new HIV infections in children under 14 years in 2017.

Mrs Cecilia Senoo, the Executive Director of the Hope for Future Generation, a non-governmental organization, in a panel discussion at the conference, said Ghana needed to create an AIDS fund from which funds could be sourced to cater for HIV activities.

“Ghana can look for funds from these telecommunication companies and from everywhere so we can have our own local funds to fund our programmes,” she said.

Dr Stephen Ayisi Addo, the Programme Manager of the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP), said the country must increase the resource mobilisation drive for HIV activities.

However, he said the NACP had been collaborating with the Ghana Education Service and the Ministry of Education to include HIV education in the schools’ curricula to intensify awareness among pupils.

The media was also being engaged to intensify education among the populace.

Professr Elly Katabira, from the Makerere University of Uganda, who was also a Co-Chair of INTEREST, said Africa, indeed, needed to own its HIV activities instead of depending on donor countries to determine which HIV interventions it could pursue at a time.

The four-day conference aims, among other things, to provide cutting-edge knowledge in the fields of treatment, pathogens, and prevention of HIV-1 and related infections and chronic conditions.

It is also to exchange ideas on how to provide and support HIV testing services and clinical care provision to adults, adolescents and children living with HIV in Africa to achieve the 90-90-90 HIV goals.

It was opened by the First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, who called for interventions including the improvement of access to family planning services, girl-child education, and economic empowerment initiatives.

This would help prevent teenage and unplanned pregnancies among young women and prevent them from contracting HIV.

Source: GNA

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Intellectual Property owners to earn Royalties – Minister

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Barbara Oteng-Gyasi – Minister of Tourism

The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MoTAC) is set to roll out policies and structures that will ensure that intellectual property owners received royalties for their creative works, Mrs Barbara Oteng Gyasi, the sector Minister has announced.

She said such initiatives would reduce the constant misunderstandings, strained relationships and accusations of unfairness within the industry and ensure wealth creation for the practitioners.

She said this at a day’s seminar organized by Vodafone Ghana Music Awards and Character House in Accra.

The seminar, which was held on the theme: “The Future of Music Business”, attracted musicians, music producers, corporate organisations among others.

It was aimed at equipping industry players with the requisite knowledge about the numerous opportunities they could make wealth through music, as well as to offer them the opportunity to network.

Mrs Oteng Gyasi said the Ministry was aware of the significant role the creative arts industry could contribute to positively impact the economy, in terms of providing employment and generation of income for the youth, as well as the country.

“This has culminated in the development of the creative arts bill currently pending before parliament to provide the legal framework for the creative arts industry”, she said.

“The act, when passed, will help to grow the industry, both nationally and internationally through partnerships and industry development assistance, which will facilitate fast ways to commercialization and innovation”, she noted.

She therefore underscored the need for industry players such as Producers, Directors and Marketers to employ professionals in their dealings in order to maximize the potential of the industry.

Commending VGMA and Charter House for organizing the seminar, Mrs Oteng Gyasi said such seminars were imperative if challenges confronting the industry were to be tackled.

“The Ministry shall, therefore, facilitate a calendar of seminars and workshops to address the many gaps in the industry. The seminar would inspire our musicians and address some of the challenges currently confronting the industry”, she said.

She assured the musicians and other stakeholders within the industry of the Ministry’s commitment and support to build a robust and sustainable industry that would place Ghanaian music and artists on the global front to derive the economic benefits of their trade.

Madam Solafunmi Oyeneye, Senior Channels Manager of MTV urged musicians to always put their target audience first when composing a song.

She encouraged up and coming artists to own their music, especially their music videos because no one would do that for them.

Source: GNA

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Stonebwoy pulls gun as fans clash on stage at VGMA

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Stonebwoy

A night of celebration for both industry players and fans in the showbiz sector, turned out to be a night of shame and regrets as the 20th edition of the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMA 2019), was marred by violence.

Fans of eternal rivals and Dancehall artistes Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy clashed on stage in a fistfight forcing Stonebwoy to pull out a pistol in the process.

This caused pandemonium at the New Dome of the Accra International Conference Center (AICC), on Sunday dawn and subsequently halted the flow of the ceremony.

Calm was restored after over 30 minutes with the program continuing, but not in the same light as it started.

It all started when Stonebwoy mounted the stage to receive an award as the Reggae Artist of the Year.

Stonebwoy prior to receiving the award gestured with his five fingers (indicating he had won the award five times in a row) to his bitterest rival Shatta Wale who was nominated in the same category.

Subsequently, Shatta Wale unhappy with the announcement stormed the stage with his fans, but it was unclear what they were up to going on the stage.

Fans of Stonebwoy’s tried to prevent them from coming on the stage and that begun the fuss. It was a war-like situation with many in the auditorium running for cover.

The “Bawasaba” hitmaker later apologized for the incident after he received the Songwriter of the year award.

“I only had to act on natural instincts…I come in peace and I go in peace…by their deeds we have all seen them,” he said.

Meanwhile, two of the categories including the big one- ‘Artiste of the year’ was not announced due to the dissension that occurred.

Kwami Sefa Kayi one of the MCs for the event, announced that the winners for those categories would be announced in a press conference at a later date.

Here are the winners for the night: Traditional Artiste of the Year – Kwan Pa; Instrumentalist of the Year – Mr Okyere; Lifetime Achievement Award – Dr Rev Mrs Mary Ghansah, Obuoba J.A. Adofo, Prof Kofi Abraham; Unsung Artiste of the Year – Kula; Gospel Song of the Year – Diana Hamilton for ‘Mo Ne Yo’; Highlife Song of the Year – Shatta Wale for ‘My Level’. Reggae/Dancehall Song of the Year – Shatta Wale for ‘Gringo’; Hiphop Song of the Year – Kwesi Arthur for ‘Anthem’; Hiplife Song of the Year – ‘Obiaa Wone Master’ by Yaa Pono feat Stonebwoy; Afropop Song of the Year – ‘Akwaaba’ by Guilty Beatz feat Mr Eazi, Pappy Kojo and Patapaa; Gospel Artiste of the year – Diana Hamilton; Highlife Artiste of the Year – Kuami Eugene; Hiplife/Hippop Artiste of the Year – Medikal; Reggae/Dancehall Artiste of the Year – Stonebwoy; Video of the Year award – MzVee – Come and See My Moda feat Yemi Alade (Dir Xbills Ebenezer); Best Collaboration of the Year – Stonebwoy – Kpoo Keke feat Medikal, Kwesi Arthur, Darko Vibes & Kelvyn Boy; Record of the Year – Akwaboah – Hye Me Bo; Songwriter of the Year – King Promise – CCTV; Producer of the Year – Kuami Eugene; Sound Engineer of The Year – Francis Osei with Akwaboah’s ‘Hye Me Bo; Male Vocalist of the Year – KiDi – on ‘Thunder’; Female Vocalist of the Year – Efya; African Artiste of the Year – Burna Boy; Rapper of The Year – Medikal.
Best African Collaboration Akwaaba – Guilty Beatz Ft Mr Eazi, Pappy Kojo & Patapaa; Group of the Year – Bethel Revival Choir; New Artiste of The Year – Wendy Shay; Album of The Year – Rockstar – Kuami Eugene; Artiste of The Decade – Sarkodie.

Source: GNA

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Ghana’s abandoned Monkey Hill Reserve under threat

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It is touted as the only rainforest situated in the center of a city in the entire West Africa but this little unique jungle in the capital of Ghana’s oil-rich Western Region which has been abandoned, faces an existential threat

Investigations show that despite its uniqueness, the Monkey Hill Forest Reserve, a 12.6 hectare rainforest populated with monkeys, in the heart of Takoradi, has been neglected by the country’s forest and tourism promoters and it is deteriorating.

While the forest has not been developed into a tourist site to fetch the state revenue, it continues to grapple with survival threats including poaching of the animals, encroachment and deplorable sanitary conditions.

A research conducted as far back as 2004 by a Takoradi-based socio-environmental Civil Society Organization, Friends of the Nation (FoN), on the forest’s flora and fauna species, recommended the urgent protection of the animals and plants in the forest while entreating government to develop the place into an ecotourism site.

In the said research, three species of monkeys were identified in the forest- the Spot-nosed Monkey, Mona Monkey and the Olive Colobus Monkey, which is a globally threatened species.

In all, the research identified seven species of large mammals, 58 species of birds and 112 species of plants.

However, investigations have found that this forest has been deteriorating at a fast pace over the years as some of the residents of Takoradi poach the inhabited animals.

Kwame Johnson, a resident of Takoradi, who boasts of having skills in monkey-trapping, told this reporter that he has trapped several monkeys in the forest at a fee for his clients.

“I use wire-cage and banana to trap them. It’s quite simple but only few people know how to use this method,” he said.

Steven Cudjoe, another resident, said he and his friends often visit the forest on weekends to hunt squirrels.

“We often go home with a catch. On a good day, it could be two or more,” he said.

Checks at the Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission (FC) to ascertain how the state protects these animals revealed that the Forestry Commission was yet to earmark the place as a Wildlife Protected Area.

“As a result, we’re unable to dispatch Resource Guards to this forest to protect the animals. We’re however trying hard to convince the commission to assist us in this regard,”said Tracy Boadi, a Wildlife Officer in-charge of Tourism at the Wildlife Division in Takoradi.

She said the Monkey Hill Forest Reserve has a huge tourism potential but her outfit was under resourced to leverage on the potential.

However, poaching of the animals is not the only threat to the Monkey Hill Forest. The fast expansion of the Takoradi city is also gradually eating into the forest.

When this reporter visited the place, residential structures and shops are seen to be fast developing into the perimeter of the forest especially, on its southern part that leads to New Takoradi, a neighbouring community.

Vegetation on the fringes of the forest have eroded badly due to human activities.

Portions of the base of the forest have also been turned into a refuse dump, populated with plastics and other solid waste.

The Forest Services Division of the FC which is responsible for keeping the forest in good shape has not been doing much.

The Takoradi District Manager of the Forest Services Division, Daniel Ofosu, said the Division has no economic interest in the Monkey Hill Forest because the trees were not being cut for sale.

As a result, no Forest Guard has been deployed to protect the forest but his outfit has been ensuring that the place continues to exist, he said.

“Last year, we planted some trees there and we do public education on encroachment,” he said.

John Laste, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolitan Assembly (STMA), when contacted, could not mention specific steps the STMA hsd taken to keep the forest clean and prevent it from encroachers.

He however said the place was open to investors who would want to develop it into an ecotourism site.

“It’s in our 2018-2021 Medium-term Development Plan as one of the areas investors can take up and develop into an ecotourism site,” he said.

The Western Regional Director of the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA), George Nkrumah Ansere, said his outfit plans to promote the place to the investor community but first, the GTA, STMA and the FC would have to come together and agree on the right of ownership of the forest.

“It’s something we’re already working on and very soon it will be sorted out,” he said, adding that, the GTA would then allot a portion of its Tourism Development Fund to develop and properly package the ecotourism plan of the place to attract investors.

Since it conducted the research on the forest a decade-and-half ago, FoN has not been able to initiate any new move in protecting the forest but the organization says the findings of its research still remain relevant.

“We’ve been able to let the public know the number of animals and plants in there. Now, it behoves on the STMA to take the lead and get other stakeholders on board to develop a management plan for the place. For us, we’re open for collaboration,” said Theophilus Boachie-Yiadom, Research Coordinator at FoN.

Currently, the middle of the forest is occupied by an old one-storey building owned by Ghana Telecom (Vodafone), some residential quarters and a private restaurant. Shops are creeping in. Solid wastes have flooded parts of it. And the devastation continues.

By Marlvin-James Dadzie

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